Near Cranberry Lake
What You Will Find
During a typical trip to Cranberry Lake, at Deception State Park it would not be uncommon to see kayaks floating atop the still waters, fisherman sitting along the winding edges of the lake, and kids splashing in the shallow waters while their parent’s BBQ.
Have You Seen It All?
But if that is all you have seen you have not gone far enough. Just past the lake is a trail that will lead you through a very rare treasure to this region. SAND DUNES. Dunes are created as grains of sand accumulate into a sheltered area when the wind blows. The limited nutrients, high winds, sun exposure, and salty spray from the ocean makes it extremely difficult for plants to grow here. Many of the plants you see today have adapted to the harsh growing conditions causing them to develop things like small leaves that stand perpendicular to the sun to avoid direct sunlight that assists in the plant’s survival.
The Old Growth Tree
However, despite the challenges stands this old-growth tree. It is quite a unique Douglas-fir.
This particular tree has stood for over 850 years watching as the dunes have taken shape. Its thick bark has guarded it against the harsh conditions in addition to storms, fires, droughts, and disease that claimed others over the years. For generations, people have climbed this stunning tree. Unfortunately, now the bark is thinning but it can still be appreciated from afar.
Take a Look at Our Interactive Map of the Area Here:
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Plan your Trip to Langley
A Little History Before You Plan Your Trip to Langley
On the southern side of Whidbey Island along the Saratoga Passage lies the lovely little town of Langley. With a population of just over one thousand, this quaint town is home to a creative culture and endless entertainment.
Langley’s history has led to its unique and diverse culture. Established in 1891, Langley served as South Whidbey’s trading center for all types of goods with the wharf connecting island merchants to Everett and Seattle. In the 60s and 70s, that same wharf brought in a wave of hippies who would forever shift the culture of South Whidbey.
Although Langley’s docks no longer see the traffic they once did, downtown is filled with remnants of the original trades-town married beautifully with the artistic culture of the mid-century hippies. It’s quite a treat to visit. If you get the chance to spend a day in Langley and aren’t sure what to do, you’re in luck! We’ve created an itinerary for the perfect one-day trip in Langley. Just don’t forget your mask and keep a social distance!
Itinerary for Day Trip to Langley
Coffee at Useless Bay
Enjoy some amazing early morning coffee from this local roaster to give yourself an extra boost at the beginning of your day. Between the friendly baristas, great drinks, and buzzing atmosphere you’ll be excited to return to this cafe over and over.
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Breakfast at The Braeburn
BEST. BREAKFAST. EVER. Or at least it’s hard to top. The Braeburn has an amazing assortment of breakfast choices ranging from light and sweet pastries to hearty mashes and breakfast burritos. There’s something for everyone!
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Morning Stroll Down Seawall Park
When you make your way out of The Braeburn you might consider taking a stroll down Langley’s Seawall Park. This seaside park is full of beautiful art that pays tribute to past island tribes and a walking path to help you get the most out of the beautiful view.
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Lunch at Ultra House
Ready for lunch? This ramen house is tucked away in the dead center of Langley village and serves absolutely incredible food! Enjoy slurping noodles and sipping broth and feeling like you’re another world away.
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Ice Cream at Sprinklz
What better way to end lunch than with some sweets?! Sprinklz is a local favorite when it comes to ice cream. It’s hard to beat their fun store or their incredible old fashioned ice cream.
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Explore Downtown and the Star Store
Even though a few of the Langley shops have closed their doors during the pandemic, The Star Store alone could keep anyone’s attention for quite some time. This century-old mercantile seamlessly transitions from produce to products and more.
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End the Night at the Taproom at Bayview
What better way to end the night than with some comfort food and a good beer? Bayview Taproom provides that and much more. You’ll love this community watering hole for its juicy burgers, kind servers, and joyful atmosphere.
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Whidbey Island Water Sports: Just in Time for Summer
As Island County transitions into we’ve noticed quite a few changes.
Restaurants have re-opened their doors.
Parks are now open to the public again.
Even a few offices are welcoming back their employees.
For many, this change couldn’t have come soon enough. For those who enjoy water sports, the lifted restrictions were right on time.
Water sports is something particularly special to Whidbey as we are after all, completely surrounded by water. With the sun making more and more guest appearances in the sky you can place a good bet on the expectation of increased activity on the waves. Between kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, and more; the Whidbey shores offer quite a bit of enjoyment for those willing to get wet.
Below are just some water activities popular on Whidbey.
Kayaking is easily an island favorite when it comes to water sports. The flexibility of kayaking regardless of weather and the ability to do it alone is a HUGE draw for many.
Another island favorite, especially in the summer, is tubing! The wonderful thing about tubing is the community feel to it. It’s a great activity that brings people together and almost always results in a few humorous stories.
Want to kick tubing it up a notch? Water skiing is for you! This sport requires a bit more resilience and core strength, but once you get it down you are sure to leave the water with some epic pictures of yourself.
Paddleboarding is a slightly newer interest on the island, but well deserving of the hype. This sport is made for those who simply want to enjoy the water. Sit, stand, lay down, it doesn’t matter! Paddleboarding allows you to enjoy the sea the way you want to.
Sailing is a Whidbey Island classic. There is a long history of sailing on Whidbey that has been passed down from generation to generation.
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Whidbey Family Resources During COVID-19 Closures
Many working parents with young children are scrambling to reassess the next 6 weeks and putting plans in place to keep kids healthy and learning while still earning necessary income. This is going to be a trying time for everyone but families with 2 working parents are facing a particular logistical headache. There are options out there and below is a collection of what is available…
Boys & Girls Clubs are offering more than 50% off child care and reduced transportation fees. Fill out the application and find out more via the following links.
High School and College Students are out of school as well and might be looking for child care work. The going rate for long term child care is anywhere from $7-$15 an hour depending on how many kids, their ages, responsibilities, driving required, etc. When screening babysitters this article might come in handy. https://www.care.com/c/stories/6753/babysitter-interview-questions/
Short Term Homeschooling:
If you are finding yourself staring down the tunnel at 6 weeks of homeschooling when this has never been a part of your plan it can feel daunting. Here are three tips that may help.
1. Create Structure through a Schedule:
Having a schedule that everyone can refer to and count on will help things from getting out of control. Here is a simple schedule we like.
2. Use the Online Resources at Your Fingertips:
Thank goodness we live in the digital age and that we still have the internet through this. We highly recommend Prodigy Game for keeping kids 1-8th grade on track with their math. Looking for a daily curriculum and content to guide your academic time at home? This Scholastic site has set up day by day themed learning opportunities at four different age levels for free! https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html
We would love to hear what you recommend and be sure to check out this long list of free or discounted resources! http://www.amazingeducationalresources.com/
3. Stay Positive & Create Community:
This too shall pass and you can choose to either wallow in the negatives or focus on all the silver linings! Since we are all in this together on Whidbey be sure to reach out to your fellow families, whether you have a previous relationship with them or not. Times of trial can bring people closer together in very authentic ways. Being outside is the safest way to convene and with some beautiful Spring days planning a walk with just a few families might be the perfect way to brighten everyone’s day. Want to learn more about outdoor opportunities?
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Discover the Best Places to Whale Watch
When it comes to natural wonders, Whidbey Island is unbelievably blessed. With expansive undeveloped areas, nine state parks, and views that take your breath away, it’s hard to imagine it could get any better.
But it does!
In addition to our incredible outdoor opportunities for explorers, we are one of the few places in the world where land-dwellers have an opportunity to get a glimpse of some spectacular mammals of the sea. Puget Sound’s cold and nutrient-rich water makes it the perfect place for whales to roam. Although you could spend the money to board a whale-watching boat and find the mammals out on the water, boats aren’t always required when you’re on Whidbey.
Below are the top 5 places to see whales from land on Whidbey!
At the west-most point of Oak Harbor lies a stretch of beach beloved by wanderers and sea life alike. With wide-open views and miles of ocean just off the shore, it’s not hard to see why West Beach is one of the best places to see whales near Whidbey.
The nutrient-rich water of Penn Cove cultivates a thriving ecosystem for small and large sea life. It’s this sea life in the form of ghost shrimp and fat seals that attracts the attention of gray whales and transient Orca alike. It’s not uncommon for the residents of Penn Cove to see a gray whale’s tail break the surface of the water as they dig in the mudflats for shrimp or a full-on chase between a stealthy Orca and a seal.
What this public beach lacks in amenities it makes up for with view and privacy. On a sunny day, beach-goers have the opportunity to see Camano Island sitting peacefully across the Saratoga Passage and – if they come at just the right time – maybe even a whale!
Just north of this charming seaside community is a county park boasting nothing more than public access to the Lagoon Point community beach. Luckily access to the beach is really all you need to catch a glimpse of traveling orcas or scavenging grey whales.
Hidden below the streets of downtown Langley is a quaint little park with beautiful art, well-maintained landscaping, and a spectacular view of the Saratoga Passage. Onlookers often have the wonderful treat of seeing a whale pass or even watch them feed in the massive ghost shrimp beds. If you do, don’t forget to ring the Whale Bell!
Bonus: Your own back porch?
Can you say “waterfront property”? Yes, please! Our beautiful island has many waterfront homes and properties with beautiful views of Puget Sound. How amazing would it be to sip coffee on your own patio while enjoying pods of orca passing by or gray whales feeding on the beach right in front of you? If this sounds like your dream, give us a call today!
Now, remember, if you do see a whale you should report it to the Orca Network! Reporting sightings to the Orca Network helps with scientific efforts and helps other whale watchers like yourself!
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Whidbey Island Wineries & Distilleries
“With intriguing accents of spice and musty earth [and] a gripping mouthful of tannins dance on the lengthy finish.”
These are the words used to describe Spoiled Dog Winery’s Estate Pinot Noir. If you are a fancy wine connoisseur, you probably knew what all of those words meant. Or maybe that entire sentence was gibberish to you.
Luckily, expertise is not a requirement for enjoyment when it comes to wine. This is evident annually with the “Autumn on Whidbey Tour” when people from all over and with all levels of wine knowledge flood the tasting rooms of local wineries to make memories. The tour is filled with friends having fun, amazing wine, and local art displayed in every tasting room.
Hosted by the Whidbey Island Vintners and Distillers Association, this year’s Autumn on Whidbey tour is widening it’s horizons by also including some local spirits! This expansion helps to include individuals interested in participating, but not really interested in wine. It also provides recognition and traffic to some pretty great local distilleries.
Below are some of the Wineries and Distilleries participating in this year’s tour that we had the pleasure of visiting:
Holmes Harbor Cellars
When you think of vineyards and wine tours, do you think of gorgeous Italian villas overlooking expansive acres of grape vines? If so, Holmes Harbor is the place for you! This locally owned winery opened its doors in 2008 with the hope of blending art and science to create some of the most incredible wines on Whidbey. This blend is evident both in their wine and in their tasting room which has the facade of a beautiful authentic villa while proudly displaying their fermentation tanks within. You can’t help but feel like you are about to have the best weekend of your life when you enter this incredible space.
Mutiny Bay Distillery
You are going to LOVE this mom, pop, and son distillery. After retiring as pharmacists Rod and Kathy Stallman utilized their deep understanding of chemistry to create spirits that ignite your imagination. With the engineering innovations of their son Scott, this trio created what can only be described as a dream line of liquor distilled from almost exclusively local ingredients. Their love and passion for their craft is evident from the moment you enter the tasting room. They love walking people through their selection of spirits and their process. You do not want to miss this stop on the tour!
Spoiled Dog Winery
As one of the most established and favorited wineries on the island, Spoiled Dog is without doubt a real treat to visit. Approaching the property guests are enveloped in trees that open suddenly to acres of vineyards and one of the most charming farm style buildings on Whidbey. Walking in one is immediately met by friendly tasting room staff standing in front of countless barrels of aging wine. The staff are knowledgeable and eager to help. Their selection is incredible and nothing beats the view of the vineyard with tall evergreens in the background.
This year’s Autumn on Whidbey Tour is November 9-10. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $25 or $30 day of the event. You can purchase yours here!
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Back to School
Here at Windermere Whidbey we are blessed to work with a wonderful agent and friend, Erik Mann. Erik is a vested community member, passionate about Oak Harbor and specifically education. He has served on the Oak Harbor school board for the last 2 years and possesses a wealth of knowledge that we are lucky to have in our brokerage.
The other day we sat down with Erik to ask about a few of the changes happening in the Oak Harbor schools this coming fall. His answers should be as helpful and informative for you as they were for us!
Hello Erik! So, we’ve heard there is going to be a big structure shift this year at the high school. Is this true? Can you tell us about it?
Yes! In recent history, Oak Harbor High School has operated on a semester schedule with six classes per day; allowing a total of six credits per year. The total number of credits available during four years of high school was 24. The Washington State Legislature requires a minimum of 24 credits to graduate. With ever-increasing restrictions on required course content, it meant that students had little flexibility to try new disciplines, arts, and advanced course work. A student’s failure of any class meant alternative pathways to credit retrieval were required, as there was no flexibility built into the schedule.
Beginning this year, the high school transitions to a trimester school year. Individual class times have been lengthened, so only five periods per day, but instead of only earning six credits per year, a student will earn seven and one-half credits per year, for a total of 30 credits over four years.
This allows far more flexibility for students to make up credits, explore new disciplines, do advanced coursework, explore vocational and art classes, etc. Because graduation requirements are fixed once you enter ninth grade, the classes of 2020-2022 are still bound to the graduation requirements in place at the time they entered high school. They will all still be required to earn 24 credits, while classes 2023 and beyond will need 28 credits to graduate but have more flexibility than previous classes.
That sounds like an amazing change for our high school students! What about the rest of our students? Any improvements that we should be keeping an eye out for?
Well, continued advocacy by the superintendent, school board, administrators and staff to our elected officials in Olympia and Washington DC, has led to an amazing opportunity to replace two of our aging elementary schools. Through the Department of Defense, the Office of Economic Adjustment has been tasked with replacing old, inadequate school facilities located on military installations and other government property.
With 160 schools evaluated nationwide, two of Oak Harbor’s schools currently rank in the top 11 schools in the nation in need of replacement due to age and capacity. This means we will be eligible to receive 80% of the funding to replace Crescent Harbor Elementary School (3) AND Clover Valley Home Connection and Early Learning Campus (11). The community will only have to fund 20% of construction costs!
There is also a possibility to move or update our aging transportation facility. Due to our interlocal agreement to provide service to the Coupeville School District’s busses, the district will qualify for a state funding match of 80% of the cost to replace/relocate the facility.
This will be an amazing opportunity for us to leverage our community’s investment in our schools with state and federal funding to replace our aging infrastructure at a fraction of the typical cost!
Whoa! That is incredible and so great it’s in partnership with the DOD, as they are such a large part of our community. I know student health has been a hot topic recently, what can we expect as far as changes there?
Over the past few years, the approach to our education system has seen a marked change in direction. I am pleased to see so much movement into the entire well-being of a child, not just focusing on academic success. It is my goal to see a continued expansion of social-emotional learning, an expansion of counseling and nursing staff, and a real focus on connections between students, adults, the community and resources available to them.
Through a partnership with NAS Whidbey Island, 5 new mental health counselors are being provided by the DOD through a contractor, who will work within Oak Harbor Public Schools. This will expand our already greater than average presence of counselors within schools but is what I hope to be just the beginning.
Whole-child initiatives also mean we need to be engaged in the health and wellness of our students. Beyond PE classes and activities available to students, education about food and healthy eating can make huge improvements in their overall well-being. Schools are all embracing outdoor student learning in interactive gardens and outdoor spaces. Students are learning lessons in the garden that extend beyond growing flowers and vegetables. They are learning science and math, but more importantly are learning to work together in a hands-on environment. They are exposed to produce they would never imagine trying, but because they took part in growing it, will enthusiastically try it and find out they like it. They are learning compassion and community service as their produce is used to supplement local food bank supplies.
Environmental stewardship goes beyond our gardens, however. As a district, we have taken great steps to be as forward thinking, efficient and conservative as possible. A large-scale effort to replace aging heating system boilers with state-of-the-art high efficiency boilers, replacing nearly all lighting with highly efficient LED lights, and transitioning to propane powered busses has propelled us to be one of the front runners in the nation. We’ve earned several state and national green ribbon awards this year. Oak Harbor Public Schools has become a model of environmental stewardship. We will continue to lead the way teaching our students to be healthy and environmentally conscious and make our systems as efficient as possible to protect our taxpayers’ investment.
This is all so great Erik! Thank you for keeping on top of this and informing our community. We know you take your role as a real estate professional as seriously as you take your role on the Oak Harbor School Board, but can you tell us how you see the two connecting?
One of the reasons I chose to work as a Windermere Broker was the focus and commitment to community through the Windermere Foundation, which collects a percentage of every transaction completed, and returns it to our community. It was rewarding to be instrumental in establishing a scholarship fund that has now awarded seven scholarships totaling $12,000 to local low-income graduates who attend vocational programs, community colleges and universities. The Windermere Foundation also provides funds to the opportunity council annually for programs that support Oak Harbor’s low-income students, providing warm clothes, backpacks and other necessities. Windermere is also a supporter of the Oak Harbor Education Foundation which provides applied learning grants for classroom projects within our district, allowing teachers to pursue hands on projects that fall outside the scope of normal funding and thereby enriching our students’ experience. Learn more about the scholarships here.
Windermere Realtors are often the first local resource a family connects with, and my connection with the district allows me to update other Realtors in my office with the most up to date and useful information to incoming families. As the second largest employer on the island, many of our Windermere clients, are employed as educators, administrators and classified staff within the district, or have children who attend Oak Harbor Public Schools. What a great benefit for them to be able to work with a Realtor who understands how the school district operates, and can provide timely, relevant information.
As I look forward to another school year, I can’t help but be excited for the possibilities.
Thank you for your time Erik! Keep up the good work!
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Blonde Lawns on Whidbey Island
Hello Summer! Can you believe it’s here? That beautiful time of year filled with beach walks, swimming lessons, trips to Kapaws Iskreme and so much more! Here on Whidbey we have countless summer traditions we treasure greatly. From our Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration to the Whidbey Island Fair, there is so much to cherish about this time of year. One tradition you may be unaware of is actually more of a movement.
Through the course of the summer months you can watch the emerald grass of this evergreen island fade to a sandy shade. Before you know it, this rock will be rocking a brand new blonde look.
What’s with the lack luster lawns? Well, it all has to do with conservation.
It’s no surprise to anyone that Whidbey tends to be a rather environmentally conscious. We love taking the extra step to ensure the beauty and resources we enjoy today will be around for tomorrow. One of those resources we care deeply about are our aquifers.
Aquifers is the scientific term for ground water. Deep below the grass you walk on are pockets of “permeable” soil which store water that can then be tapped into for use. Annually these aquifers are recharged by the rain that falls to the ground.
According to Island County, Whidbey Island’s sole source of potable water comes from the ground.1 Sounds great, right? I mean, it’s Washington and it rains here. We should be good.
Unfortunately, not all is good in the aquifer hood.
According to a report released by the Washington State Department of Ecology, “increasing demands for water from ongoing population growth, declining stream flows and groundwater levels… have put Washington’s water supplies at risk.” Whidbey is by no means immune to this water depletion; in fact, seawater intrusion and our lack of rain fall in comparison to the rest of Western Washington puts us in a pretty tight spot.
So, what does this have to do with the blonde lawns of Whidbey (I think you can guess).
The summer months, when there is little rain, poses a particularly difficult dilemma for island aquifers. Between keeping ourselves hydrated in the summer sun, watering plants, animals, and filling the pool in the backyard we use A LOT of water.
This increase of use and lack of resource hits hard on our aquifers and our wallets! Many newcomers to Whidbey are shocked when that first summer water bill comes in. The rules of supply and demand are no strangers to Whidbey Island water.
So how can we save our aquifers (and our wallets)? By going blonde!
Grass is far more durable than people sometimes realize. More times than not the golden grass that takes over Whidbey in the summer will be green again by next spring. Blonde lawns DON’T mean dead grass.
So, save yourself time, money, hassle and save our precious resources. Let your lawn go blonde!
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QR Codes Connecting Us to History
It’s of no surprise to anyone that Whidbey Island is home to some fascinating and wonderful towns each with their own history and culture. Perhaps the most intriguing is Whidbey’s oldest town and home of the first Whidbey Island settlement, Coupeville.
Coupeville is an adorable waterfront community rich in history and culture. In 1850 Issac Ebey became the first official Whidbey Island settler when he applied for the first land claim on the island. Claiming over 600 acres of what is now Ebey’s Landing, Ebey was soon to be followed by his nephew and many others. By 1854 there were 29 settlement claims in Coupeville alone and in 1881 it officially became the Island County seat.
Although all of Whidbey is covered in fascinating history, Coupeville is unique in its preservation. Where many of the original buildings of Oak Harbor and Langley have been torn down or decimated by historic fires, downtown Coupeville’s original buildings remain intact and in use. In fact, the town of Coupeville has more historic buildings in a condensed area than anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.
To celebrate this fact and educate people on these beautiful historic buildings, Island County’s 4-H club took on the project of using modern technology to connect us to the past. Next time you’re in downtown Coupeville, take a closer look at those historic store windows. You might just see one of these:
Scattered down Front Street are tons of these QR codes leading to the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association website developed by the 4-H club in 2012. This website is full of information gathered from the Island County Historical Society, City Records, and over 100 personal interviews with people recounting memories and stories of the historic downtown. Each building’s QR code will lead you directly to that building’s history: when it was built, it’s original purpose, and the different stores that have occupied the space.
So, the next time you are strolling down Font Street whip out that smartphone of yours and learn a little bit of history along the way.
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